U.S. Newspapers Present Biased View of Biotech

Thirteen of the largest newspapers and
magazines in the United States have all but shut out criticism of
genetically modified (GM) food and crops from their opinion pages,
according to a new report by Food First/Institute for Food and
Development Policy.

Thirteen of the largest newspapers and
magazines in the United States have all but shut out criticism of
genetically modified (GM) food and crops from their opinion pages,
according to a new report by Food First/Institute for Food and
Development Policy.

The report, Biotech Bias on the Editorial and Opinion Pages of Major
United States Newspapers and News Magazines
, found an overwhelming
bias in favor of GM foods not only on editorial pages, but also on
op-ed pages, a forum usually reserved for a variety of opinions. In
fact, the report found that some newspapers surveyed did not publish
a single critical op-ed on GM foods and crops, while publishing
several in support.

"It is a great disservice to the American public when the media
filters out critical viewpoints on issues that are central to our
times," said Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First/The Institute
for Food and Development Policy. "This is an issue where there is
significant difference of opinion among both scientists and the
general public," she said, "and those differences must be represented
in the media if the public is to be able to exercise its democratic
right to make informed decisions about new technologies."

The report investigated 11 newspapers and three weekly news magazines
between September 1999 and August 2001. Out of 40 op-eds, 31
supported GM foods and crops while only seven were critical. Two
op-eds argued for labeling of GM foods. Newspaper editorials were
united in supporting GM foods and crops and only diverged on the
issue of labeling.

The papers surveyed were: The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The
Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, The
Houston Chronicle, Newsday (New York), The Washington Post, USA
Today, and The Wall Street Journal. The newsweekly magazines were:
Time, Newsweek, and The Economist.

The report is based on searches conducted on the Nexis database using
the search term "bioengineered foods or genetically modified foods or
genetically engineered foods or biotechnology. The findings were
reduced to "editorial or op-ed or opinion or commentary."

An HTML copy of the report can be found at:
http://www.foodfirst.org/media/press/2002/biotechbiasreport.html.

A PDF version can be found at:
http://www.foodfirst.org/media/press/2002/biotechbiasreport.pdf.

For more information, please contact
Nick Parker at (510) 654-4400. ext. 229

Author:

News Service: Common Dreams

URL: http://www.commondreams.org/news2002/0429-06.htm